While it was an overall “down year” for college football in Texas overall, some of the top games in the country were played in, or by, the teams from the Lone Star State. Let’s take a look back at some of the best, most entertaining, and most important games of 2016, in chronological order.
Oklahoma at Houston (September 3rd)
It was supposed to be the game of the year, as two of the country’s top 15 teams looked to open the season with a statement win. Houston was fired up, and after the Sooners jumped out to a big lead, they settled in and took control in the second quarter. OU themselves rallied next, shutting out the Cougars in the third – only to see them repay the favor in the final frame to secure the 33-23 victory.
Baker Mayfield (Lake Travis) and Greg Ward Jr (John Tyler) went shot for shot, each surpassing 300 passing yards and tossing a pair of scores. The Sooners’ vaunted run game was held in check – possibly by the play callers, as Samaje Perine (Hendrickson) and Joe Mixon were granted a mere six carries a piece.
With realignment rumors swirling and the Cougars making a serious push to be a Big 12 expansion candidate, fans started clamoring for a power five bid before the final horn sounded.
Notre Dame at Texas (September 4th)
Texas is back.
Those were the words uttered as Tyrone Swoopes (Whitewright) mack-trucked his way across the goal line with just seconds remaining to give the Longhorns a 50-47 lead and an upset then #10 ranked Notre Dame in Austin. With Charlie Strong’s seat getting hotter by the moment, the victory quieted the doubters for the time being and introduced true freshman QB Shane Buechele (Arlington Martin) to a national audience. But, the good vibes would be short-lived, as the Horns would fall just two weeks later at Cal, on their way to a 5-7 season and the end of Strong’s reign in Austin.
UNT at Rice (September 24th)
Overtime thrillers were a common occurrence among Texas teams in the fall of 2016, and UNT and Rice engaged in a classic as September wound to a close. The Mean Green’s Willy Ivery (Sulphur Springs) snuck in from a yard out to open the second overtime, and his defense held firm on a fourth and one a possession later, given North Texas an early victory on their path to a bowl game.
Jeffrey Wilson (Elkhart) rushed for 158 yards and three scores for the Mean Green and Kenny Buyers hauled in over 100 yards worth of receptions as UNT racked up 439 yards on their way to the victory.
Oklahoma at TCU (October 1st)
Still reeling from a heartbreaking loss to Arkansas three weeks prior, the Frogs welcomed in an Oklahoma team that was trying to find itself after early season losses at Houston and to Ohio State. Well, Baker Mayfield (Lake Travis) and DeDe Westbrook (Cameron Yoe) found themselves in Fort Worth against TCU. After the Frogs surged out to a 21-7 lead, Mayfield and Westbrook got hot, as the duo produced a pair of long touchdowns en route to amassing a 49-24 lead through three quarters. When all seemed lost, Kenny Hill (Southlake) went to work, leading the Frogs to 22 fourth quarter points while his defense tightened down to the tune of a single field goal surrendered. With the Frogs within a single score and pinned deep in their own territory, Hill was called for intentional grounding, effectively ending the drive, and the game, with OU on top, 52-46. The Sooners would run the table in the Big 12 on their way to an 11 win season, while TCU would spurt and stumble to a 6-7 mark overall.
Tennessee at Texas A&M (October 8th)
A top ten matchup between a pair of SEC teams? What could go wrong?
For Tennessee, everything, as they saw their post-season dreams, and eventually an SEC East title, go down the drains at Kyle Field, upended by an Aggie team that was NOT playing November football.
UTEP at UTSA (October 22nd)
You like offense? What does 101 points, nearly 1,000 yards, and five overtimes do for you? That’s what it took for UTEP to end a five game skid, as the Miners staged a dramatic victory and spoiled the Roadrunners’ Homecoming game. Ryan Metz (Andress) was the hero, throwing a six yard strike to Warren Redix (Montwood) to seal the deal.
UTEP twice rallied from 14 point deficits on their way to victory, and neither QB threw for 300 yards. It was the first five overtime game in Conference USA history, and one fans won’t soon forget.
Baylor at Texas (October 29th)
Texas wasn’t back, after all, but they still had one big win in them, up-ending the then undefeated Bears 35-34. Baylor, who had been through the ringer in the off-season, coasted through their opening six games on the way to a top ten ranking. But the wheels came off that Saturday in Austin, as the Bears fell to the Horns for the first of what would become six straight losses.
Neither team could get much going after they combined for 28 points in the opening frame, and thus the Bears clung to a 31-26 lead heading into the final quarter. With Texas reeling from losing four out of their last five, most expected the young Horns to fold. But a turnover on their own ten by Baylor gave UT life, and Shane Buechele answered with a touchdown strike. The Horns would march back down the field with seconds remaining, and Trent Domingue would bring home the win with a 39 yard boot with under a minute to play. While Texas would never quite get the momentum going, Baylor went into a tailspin, and wouldn’t win another game until bowl season.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State (November 12th)
You say the Big 12 doesn’t play any defense? Let me show you this Texas Tech/Oklahoma State game, in which there was at least one defensive stop. Well, a missed extra point, but close enough.
Almost any time Texas Tech is involved in a football game, you’re liable to see a shootout, and their matchup in Stillwater against the Pokes was no exception. The two teams traded blows throughout the first half, as OSU jumped out to a big first quarter lead only to see Tech tie it up by half, because Patrick Mahomes (Whitehouse) is a gosh darn magician. It was an old fashioned QB duel between Mahomes and Mason Rudolph, who each threw for nearly 400 yards in a wild, back and forth affair. It took a shutout quarter by the Red Raiders (no, that’s not a typo) to give Mahomes a shot to tie it, and the junior gunslinger delivered, leading his team on a quick 88 yard drive. But a missed extra point at the tail-end gave the Pokes the W, as they prevailed 54-44.
Louisville at Houston (November 17th)
When you simply look at the score, it’s easy to say this wasn’t the game it was billed to be, as Houston dominated the then 5th ranked Cardinals 36-10. But it wasn’t that the Cougars won, it was how they did it, as the defense put on an absolute clinic against the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson. In the midst of one of the most impressive seasons in recent memory, Jackson was harassed, hit, and sacked to the tune of a modest 168 yard day that included a pair of interceptions. The Cougars, whose dream season had ended with losses to Navy and SMU, rose up for one last gasp, knocking the presumed playoff contender completely out of the race. Greg Ward Jr (John Tyler) was outstanding, throwing for 233 and a pair of touchdowns and running for 24 more. But it was the Houston D, led by Ed Oliver (Westfield) and Steven Taylor (Cedar Hill) who combined for 4.5 of the Cougars’ 11 sacks.
Mary Hardin-Baylor vs Wisconsin Oshkosh (December 16th)
When you’ve spent the season destroying all comers on your way to an undefeated record and a 46.8 points per game average, it’s somewhat surprising that your penultimate game comes to a stalemate after the first half. But that’s what happened to the Cru on their way to a DIII title against Wisconsin Oshkosh, as Mary-Hardin Baylor’s potent offense went silent after a 10 point first half on the way to their 10-7 win. John Mowery’s (Leander) 22-yard field goal in the first frame would be the difference, leading the Cru to their first ever Stagg Bowl win and National Championship.
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